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While TV production has used virtual studio for years, LED display is challenging green screen in virtual studio as technology evolves. Virtual studio refers to shooing scenes in a virtual environment whose background is composited during post production, creating effects that are more true-to-life and immersive than traditional studio is capable of. Most virtual studios were based on green screen (blue screen). As actors perform in front of the screen, the background is created during post production. Though the technology is quite mature, results can look quite unrealistic due to bad lighting. Post production is also rather expensive. The industry is replacing traditional green/blue screen with LED display that combines real people and images with their virtual counterparts as the scene is shot.
Moreover, COVID-19 has hurt the TV and movie industry tremendously as it limits life shots and makes crew management a serious challenge. Comparing to live scenes and concerts, LED display has the technical advantages that eliminate crew movement and clustering issues while cutting the number of on-set crew and post production costs. Thanks to the advantages, LED display has become an important alternative that drives up global industrial demand. LED display is a more effective option that will revolutionize the TV and movie industry.
In addition to these advantages, LED display can show the actual images that are more realistic than traditional green/blue screen has to offer. It can plunge actors and creators into the story as they feel the atmosphere and immerse in the scenes. The set is not limited by weather and time too. For example, scenes with sunrise and sunset can be captured just minutes apart, slashing shooting and production costs.
Fine pitch LED displays overcome traditional shooting bottles, attract partner MoonShine Animation
In fact, 100 virtual studios were under construction or have been completed in 2020. International blockbusters were shot with virtual studios based on LED displays. Taiwanese TV and film industry didn’t miss the boat either as animation heavyweight MoonShine Animation joined forces with leading LED display and driver IC maker Macroblock to create the first LED display-based virtual studio in Taiwan.
The partnership was by no means incidental. Having shot the period piece Gold Leaf using LED displays as background, MoonShine Animation knew how LED displays saved post-production time and cost. The TV show was set in Dadaocheng, in the 1950s. The crew had to remove the “Yongle Market” sign, which can be seen at the actual shooting location, from the scenes in 2 ways. Post-production with LED display showing the virtual animated background took only 3 days. On the other hand, removing the sign from live shots during post-production needed 6 months.
Though the crew knew LED displays have lots of advantages on location and in cutting post-production cost, the Gold Leaf was shot using LED displays with bigger pitch (P5). Therefore, the crew needed to keep a certain distance between the camera and the display – when used as background – to avoid capturing individual LEDs.
Having pinpointed the industrial pain point, leading LED driver supplier Macroblock is trying to overcome the problem with technology. As far as Macroblock can tell, while LED displays used to serve human eyes, they are serving high-resolution cameras in the new TV and movie applications.
Consequently, Macroblock and MoonShine Animation jointly created a virtual studio for a more immersive and natural shooting environment based on LED displays with a refresh rate of 3,840Hz, pitch of P1.25mm and resolution of triple 4K. Real-time camera tracking system enables LED displays to show images with camera frustum. Aerial perspective of the virtual elements worked seamlessly with camera movement, effectively merging real and virtual elements as well as the cast.
Besides fine pitch, super-high-resolution LED displays, the first virtual studio in Taiwan chose black matte-treated LED luminaires to increase contrast ratio and prevent unnatural results. Macroblock also installed P2.5 LED displays in addition their P1.25 counterparts to meet such demands as bigger pictures and envelopment/immersion.
Cross-industrial partnership creates win-win scenario; Macroblock wishes to connect industry, academia
As Macroblock and MoonShine Animation formed a cross-industrial alliance, MoonShine brought to the table user experience and technical issues early adopters face. Macroblock was able to reference the user experience in the creation of next-generation products and resolve TV and movie industry’s plights and pain points. It’s a win-win situation. The cross-industrial alliance is also pivotal to boosting the willingness of putting LED displays in virtual studios and adopting LED displays by the movie industry.
As the cross-industrial alliance between the tech sector and the TV and movie industry develops, future LED displays are expected to bring more comprehensive changes to virtual production, especially when LED displays become an appropriate shooting subject as the pitch shrinks to P1.5 or less. The shrinkage means the distance between the camera and the display can be shortened. The space needed to shoot the scenes can become smaller too. The evolution will serve not only the human eye but also shooting with high-resolution camera. In other words, LED displays will no longer stay in the background.
On the other hand, the evolution of LED display technology will improve the quality of studio production. Macroblock discovered low-power LED displays will play a pivotal role in indoor shooting, which often needs to turn off air conditioning for the sake of quietness. Low-power displays generate less heat, which is especially important in environments without air conditioning.
In addition to working with the TV and movie industry, Macroblock’s cross-industrial initiatives are nurturing TV and movie talents by courting campus partners. Macroblock discovered that the industry was moving faster than the academia in virtual production. As campus talents tend to focus on traditional production technology, the graduates will face new technical barriers and have to relearn the new technology. Therefore, Macroblock is committed to promoting new LED display technology on campus so that the academia has access to the latest technology adopted by the industry with the Macroblock-supplied equipment. Only by connecting the industry and the academia, there can be enough talents to drive virtual production momentum and prospects.